Lavelle McNutt: Another Serial Rapist Allowed to Walk the Streets of Atlanta

Last week, I wrote about Lavelle McNutt, a serial rapist given many second chances. His Georgia Department of Corrections record is a record of something else, as well: our failure to imprison repeat offenders, even after the 1994 sentencing reform law was passed.

As the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported a few weeks ago, McNutt’s first adult rape conviction, for two separate rapes in New York State, occurred in 1976, just after he turned 18. When you see an 18-year old convicted of a serious offense, you have to wonder about the contents of his sealed juvenile record: 18-year olds don’t wake up one day, break into the first house they see, and rape the occupant. They usually start experimenting with sexual abuse early in adolescence, victimizing their siblings, peers, and other easy targets. How many children and young women had already been sexually assaulted by McNutt by the time he aged out of the juvenile system?

I believe those victims exist, and that unlike Lavelle McNutt, they were abandoned by society. There’s no way to sugarcoat it: the football coaches and college presidents who treated McNutt like a victim because he was a rapist abetted him in his crimes, thus sentencing his victims to a lifetime without justice.

The two rape victims in the New York State cases were also denied justice, only in a different way. McNutt was sentenced to a preposterously light term of five years for the two rapes. He served less than three years of that, and by 1979 he was a college student at Atlanta’s Morehouse University. Almost immediately, he was charged in another sexual assault, this time for aggravated sodomy. In May, 1979, he began serving a seven-year sentence for that crime. He got out in three years.

In 1982, Lavelle McNutt was 24 years old and already had three adult sexual assault convictions on his record. Two years later, he was convicted of aggravated assault in Clayton County. Was that a rape case, pled down to a non-sexual charge? He also had a burglary conviction in Fulton County, date unknown. Burglary and aggravated assault charges from the early 1980’s might very well have been rapes, or attempted rapes. Atlanta was notorious at that time for going easy on sex offenders — thanks largely to irresponsible jurors who rendered sex crime prosecutions almost impossible to win, regardless of the circumstances. An ugly contempt for victims of rape was the status quo in the courts. The malaise incited by public prejudices towards victims crashed the entire system, and Atlanta was a rapist’s paradise. And a victim’s nightmare. It would be very interesting to know more about those crimes.

In 1984, McNutt was sentenced to five years for the aggravated assault. Oddly, he did serve nearly all of that sentence, receiving only a few months off, probably for the time he was behind bars awaiting sentencing. This is another reason I suspect that the underlying crime was something more serious than aggravated assault. In any case, for five years the public was protected from him. Pre-sentencing reform, this was the best a prosecutor could do. In August, 1989, he was free again.

In 1992, McNutt was charged in Fulton County with the offense called “Peeping Tom.” Funny as that sounds, he was probably casing out a victim to rape or amusing himself between more serious attacks. He received three years for the Fulton crime and 12 months for a crime labeled “other misdemeanor” in Gwinnett County. He was out again two years later, in 1994.

Georgia’s sentencing reform law was passed in 1994. It was supposed to enhance sentencing for repeat offenders and extend sentences significantly for so-called “serious violent offenders.” But the law was passed with several default mechanisms that enabled judges to keep releasing repeat offenders onto the streets. Consider this language:

Except as otherwise provided in subsection (b) of this Code section, any person convicted of a felony offense in this state or having been convicted under the laws of any other state or of the United States of a crime which if committed within this state would be a felony and sentenced to confinement in a penal institution, who shall afterwards commit a felony punishable by confinement in a penal institution, shall be sentenced to undergo the longest period of time prescribed for the punishment of the subsequent offense of which he or she stands convicted, provided that, unless otherwise provided by law, the trial judge may, in his or her discretion, probate or suspend the maximum sentence prescribed for the offense [italics inserted]. (O.C.G.A. 17-10-7)

In other words, a criminal must be sentenced to the maximum penalty the second time he is convicted of a felony unless the judge decides to sentence him to something other than the maximum penalty, such as no time at all, as in the case of six-time home burglar Johnny Dennard. What is the point of a law like this? The point is that the criminal defense bar still controlled the Georgia Legislature in 1994, and other elected officials lacked the courage to stand up to them. The rest of the story is that too many judges betray disturbing pro-defendant biases, even when it comes to violent predators like Lavelle McNutt.

Nevertheless, other portions of the 1994 sentencing reform law did strengthen sentences for repeat offenders. In 1996, McNutt was charged with aggravated assault and stalking in Fulton County. Aggravated assault is not one of the “seven deadly sins” that trigger sentencing as a “serious violent felon” under the 1994 act: if it were, he would have been sentenced to life without parole due to his prior rape convictions.

Yet even as a “non-serious violent felon” repeat offender, McNutt was still required under the 1994 sentencing reform act to serve the entire sentence for his crimes. But he didn’t. He was sentenced to six years and served less than four. He walked into prison in January, 1997 and walked out again three and a half years later, in July of 2000. Even counting the time he may have spent cooling his heels in the Fulton County jail before being transferred to the state prison (or maybe not), he was out of prison four years and two months after the date of the crime for which he was sentenced to no less than six years behind bars, with no parole.

Here is the code section that restricts parole for four-time felons:

[A]ny person who, after having been convicted under the laws of this state for three felonies or having been convicted under the laws of any other state or of the United States of three crimes which if committed within this state would be felonies, commits a felony within this state other than a capital felony must, upon conviction for such fourth offense or for subsequent offenses, serve the maximum time provided in the sentence of the judge based upon such conviction and shall not be eligible for parole until the maximum sentence has been served. (from O.C.G.A. 17 -10-7)

Can anybody explain the fact that McNutt was granted parole? Who let him go early, apparently in direct violation of Georgia’s reformed sentencing law? Did the prosecutors fail to record his three prior felony convictions dating back to 1976 — two rapes (counted as one, unfortunately), aggravated sodomy, and the 1984 aggravated assault? Did the judge ignore the law of Georgia in sentencing McNutt? Did the Department of Corrections ignore the no-parole rule? Who is responsible?

For that matter, why didn’t the judge give McNutt a longer sentence in the first place? How could any judge look at the accumulated evidence of violently predatory sexual behavior, of repeat offenses rolling in after each brief incarceration, and not decide that it was his or her duty to protect the public for longer than six years? Does anybody on the criminal justice bench in Atlanta even contemplate public safety in sentencing?

Furthermore, why was McNutt charged with stalking and aggravated assault for the same incident? Was he actually attempting to commit a sexual assault? Could he have been charged with attempted sexual assault instead, a charge that would have triggered the life sentence (read: 14 years) as a serious violent felon and repeat offender? Was he permitted to plead to a charge that didn’t carry life imprisonment? Did the Fulton prosecutor’s office do everything it could do to keep McNutt off the streets, given his disturbing prior history and relentless sequence of serious crimes?

Also, was McNutt’s DNA checked before he was released from prison in 2000? Could other rapes have been solved, and charged, before he walked out of prison again? How many rapes could have been prevented, including the four recent Buckhead-area sex crimes, if this had been done? His first adult rape conviction occurred in 1976 — his latest rape charges occurred quite recently. Does anybody believe he took a twenty-year hiatus from hunting and torturing women?

Until his most recent arrest, Lavelle McNutt had been a free man since July, 2000, working in Atlanta-area restaurants, even managing them. He wasn’t hiding. As if his prior record isn’t bad enough, the current allegations about him are sickening: an informant reported that he carried “duct tape, wigs, lubricant and sex toys” in his car, to use during sexual assaults. We have all certainly helped him along on the road to perfecting his torture of women.

Why doesn’t a case like this capture the imagination of Atlanta’s many criminologists and law professors who rail endlessly against the putative cruelty of three-strikes laws (when they aren’t busy inventing fake statistical measurements to downplay the city’s crime numbers)? Why aren’t elected officials asking some very hard questions about the enforcement of the laws they passed? Why isn’t the GBI offering a clarification about the status of McNutt’s DNA profile, the date it was entered into the state database, and the number of rape kits it matched?

Why isn’t somebody calling for an audit of the possible prosecution, sentencing, and parole errors that released McNutt to the streets, over and over and over again?


23 thoughts on “Lavelle McNutt: Another Serial Rapist Allowed to Walk the Streets of Atlanta”

  1. This article is horrifying. After hearing now about the recent murder of the woman by the lacrosse player, I remembered Lavell McNutt from my college days. McNutt was supposed to attend my university on a lacrosse scholarship, and he was supposed to have lived on my floor my freshman year. He never showed up. He went to West Point instead. That spring we read in the newspaper that Lavell mcNutt had been charged with two rapes in NY. We knew it was he because of his unusual name. The women in my dorm were horrified. This guy could have been living on our floor and any of us could have been his victim. I expected that he would have gotten the max sentence at the time.I have been living in ATL since 2000. I could have potentially been his victim again!

  2. I was a classmate of McNutt’s at the West Point starting in the summer of 1975. He was a well-built athletic type who never seemed to communicate much with the rest of us as a very small community of minority cadets. What I remember of all that was the word getting out that he’d been arrested for rape (either over our Christmas 1975 or summer 1976 break)and him never resurfacing at the academy. Word was that he’d been framed and got off. I read the AJC often and after seeing him in the paper last I realized it was all true. What a worthless human.

  3. I am one of his victims… This man should not be allowed on the streets ever again… He ruined my life. He is a sickkkkkkkkkkk man and i hope he gets raped over and over and over again while he rots in jail. He is truly a disgusting human being.

  4. I just found out that there has been many more other then myself. I have been living in fear the past couple of years. I am glad to hear he is back in jail. my hope is that they do not let him go this time. He truly deserves Life in prison. He almost left me for dead. He seemed like such a pro at being a rapist. He was well equipped with duck tape, rope, knife to the neck, masks, condoms, etc…. I really hope that his victims such as myself and alot of other women get our justice for the mental damage and physical damage that he has done to us and our families…………..

  5. i am the father of one of his victims.what was done to my daughter and my family is beyond imagination…i am still crying and outraged from this crime.thanks to judges who were paid by the tax payers to release a serial rapist like this man to victimise our sons and daughters.wished i could find the way to penalize and imprison those authorities responsible for their negligance.i am sure there are other victims.we should all get together and stop those judges from unlawful practices…i welcome any suggestion,while i would appreciate if my name and information is not published.

  6. I went to high school with Lavelle McNutt and he graduated a year after me. Although I did not know him personally, I had many friends on the football team that considered him an All-American black athlete and a great guy. He was part of a tremendous football program at Howard High. Anyone who knew him in high school was completely shocked by his rapes at West Point and his life there after. After reading this article, it is sad how irresponsible our court system is here in the United States.

  7. I was an ‘Almost Victim’ of Lavell McNutt. I was in Macy’s one afternoon in Feb 2009 trying on some denims and as I was looking in the mirror at myself – I saw this head peeping underneath the fitting room stall I was in. I was horrified. I dressed quickly and went out and he was no where in sight. I went to the cash counter and notified the sales girl who then called Macy’s security. The security guard thought it was funny and walked me out to my car and refused to do a report.
    That night I lied in bed reading and I was reading about a bar scene, that face of the peeping tom popped into my head again. It came to me right then. I use to frequent Fox Grill in Atlantic Station back in ’07’ and I just took a chance and called up Fox Grill and asked if they had an older African American bartender or manager with glasses that worked there. The male voice on the other end of the phone said ‘I’m a Black Manager with glasses, what’s your concern’. I asked if he was in Macy’s earlier that afternoon and he asked me why. I lied and told him the police was looking for that person and he asked me to hold on.
    When the person picked up the phone again it seemed they had switched location because the background noise had died out. The male voice that picked up the phone was the same one that initially answered the phone and he said, ‘Yes, that was me and I’m very sorry’. I FROZE. He began to plead with me and asked how I found him and that he would do anything just so I wouldn’t tell the police where he worked. I asked him his name and what he did for Fox Grill. He was a Senior Manager at Fox Grill for the past 4 yrs. The next day I called up Macy’s and spoke to the manager of the store and forced them to do a report. I then called the police and did a police report. I called Fox Grill and notified the GM (Jenny) who fired him that very day and then I tried calling Deidre Dukes at Fox 5 and she blew me off. A couple weeks later I got a call from a detective (Roey) asking me to come into the police station to identify whom I thought was the suspected peeping-tom. Lavell McNutt’s picture was in the line-up. I began to cry because he was known as a serial rapist and I had no idea. I identified him and was informed that he was a suspect in an attempted rape of a Buckhead woman. For weeks I was terrified until they arrested him.
    Since his arrest, I have showed up for all his court appearances and I will continue to do so until they throw away the key.

  8. Peeping and flashing are “day jobs” for rapists, as one detective told me. Sexual compulsion, desire to cause fear, flirting with danger — then whining when caught — that’s a rapist for you.

    And that’s what makes public libraries so unpleasant for women, and why they need such high levels of security to keep them safe, though nobody will talk about it. I spend a lot of time in libraries, and I’ve been flashed in the Atlanta libraries (twice) and the Emory University Library before they began to make people sign in. Before such security enhancements, it used to be a big problem. Yet when it happened to me in the Ponce de Leon (Atlanta) library branch, the librarians and security guard didn’t want to do anything, and the guy I caught (I physically grabbed him by the arm and demanded action) just started ranting about racism and then said he was scratching a sore on his penis (after following me around every shelf in that very small place for about ten minutes, and then cornering me and staring in my eyes while rubbing his exposed penis as soon as I was as far away as possible from the front desk). The security guard actually took him in the back and came out with him, and then he let him go and treated me like a criminal. Meanwhile, the flasher hit the door and started running up Ponce de Leon, fast. Wonder what else he had to hide.

    Too bad so many people think it’s funny when someone complains about being flashed, or peeped. Authorities should take it seriously, arrest the bastard, and get his DNA. And if a store manager or library employee won’t do anything, call the police yourself, and complain. Thanks for taking those steps. Macy’s should be thanking their lucky stars they didn’t end up liable for failing to act on a serious crime reported to them in their store.

    And I’ve heard good things about Detective Roey. I’m glad to hear they followed up with you. DNA has really made a big difference, because, as McNutt’s case shows, serial offenders are very prolific and won’t stop until they’re stopped by others. Here’s an interesting article:

    Thank you for taking the time to demand justice for other people. Too bad there aren’t more of you out there.

  9. I’d like to find out more about the court cases and how I can attend. He needs to be imprisoned for life. He is a very sick man and he has been allowed too many chances…

  10. @ almost victim I was in macy’s with u the day that happened . When I walked into the fitting room I saw an older well dressed black guy on the floor on all fours looking inside a fitting room. I thought at first he was a manager there and the door to the dressing room may have been locked on the inside. He looked back at me and then turned to look under the fitting room door again. I walked off to look for another dressing room. And I quickly found out the juniors side did not have any other fitting rooms so I went back to the fitting room where the guy was. I walked past him and went into the one beside him. As I was starting to change I looked at the floor of the fitting room beside me and saw feet of a woman standing in one place as if she were facing the mirror. I thought it was strange that the person didn’t move the entire time I was in there. When I left the fitting room the man was gone. And ten minutes later I was at the register when u told the cashier u needed security because a man was watching u. I talked u and told u what I saw and u were afraid he was going to follow u. I remember security taking forever to come. This story Is sad because I can’t believe this man was in and out of jail for years for raping women and they just kept letting him out to do it again. I don’t know the full details about how he chose his victim’s but Someone should sue fox grill for overlooking his background. How could they allow a monster to work at that company with female customers that he could have preyed on. Almost victim he may have been targeting you for all u know after u dined  at fox sports grill frequently. Hell sue the city of Atlanta for allowing him to keep getting out and obviously failing to register as a sex offender. I can’t see any place hiring a sex offender to work in a restaurant.

  11. I new McNutt I was locked up in prison with him he was or teams basketball coach. I happened to see him at Fox Grill in I said to myself how in the hell he get a job here knowing he was a convicted felon in what really surprised me he was the manager I couldn’t believe it . But I remember him telling me he was goin into restaurant management when he out of prison .But I never imagine he was a serial rapist . I would like to send my blessing out to all his victim n may McNutt rot in jail .

  12. Thank you for writing this. I hope you shared this information with the police: even after a case is closed, it’s important to give them every detail to ensure the record is as strong as possible. I also agree that a lawsuit is a good idea: had the department store acted, rapes could have been prevented. Publicizing this story also informs the public, who might otherwise give someone like McNutt the benefit of the doubt in that dressing room. “Peepers” and “flashers” are often serious sex offenders getting a little kick between attacks. A senior library security officer in downtown Atlanta (where they had terrible problems with sexually aggressive homeless men) once told me that he calls flashing a “day job for rapists.”

  13. Thanks to all those who posted in regards to my unfortunate encounter with Lavelle McNutt at Macy’s.
    His hearing was last week Thursday (July 14th) and I had submitted a long letter to the judge and prosecutor demanding they hand him the maximum penalty. I am relieved to say that they gave him life in prison. Although the scars have long since healed, the memories of what he did and the way Macy’s and Fox Grill handled my complaint is a constant negative companion.
    @Reshon @Melvin @Tina – feel free to email me at s********** {address removed} and thanks for your encouraging words.

  14. My, my, my…as I read this article and all the comments, it only confirms how I have been feeling for the past 2 1/2 years. Lavelle McKnutt is a sick, sick man. Although I was not one of his direct victims, my daughter was! I can not begin to tell you how something like this turns your life upside down! The victim personally, and all who are connected to them in anyway, are “raped” of their lives, as to what used to be normal. How does one begin to help a victim feel at ease alone again? How do you help them to do daily task like go to the grocery store, take their pet for a walk, go outside to get the mail, go to doctor appointments, go to work, go to church? When I heard he was sentenced to life, I praised God and I had a sense of relief. But then I began to realize that not only was he sentenced to life, but so are his victims and those who love them! This NUTT destroyed far too many lives. I suppose some of his victims may feel this changes things for them, and I pray that is the case. As a parent, I can tell you, my life will never be what it used to be. The phone call I recieved the day he raped my daughter was one of the most difficult calls I have ever had to deal with. First thought, is she ok?, second thought, how do I tell my husband? Third thought, I failed as a parent, it is my job to always protect my children! Went to counseling, went into depression, had anxiety attacks, cried nightly, prayed and prayed! I still pray for my daughter and all of his victims that you will somehow be able to get back your lives to a point of peace and understanding. That whatever God had destined for you will be fulfilled, and that you will be blessed with love!

  15. Wow…I remember working with Lavelle at the Fox for over a year…He took me home one time and that was the last time..He has always been a weird guy 2 me..I felt like he was Bi-Polar because u never knew what mood he was in..After a year of his unwanted advances I finally put him in his place and stayed away from me after that..I’m so sorry 2 all his victims..almost victims..and any female tht had 2 work with lavelle…He harrassed a lot of us at the Fox and its ashame he was even allowed 2 work there..2 the victim @ Macys: U should sue all of them because anything coulda happened 2 you or any one else there…. Lavelle is a sick person.. I could look in his eyes and tell he wasn’t right!!Everybody used 2 say that about him at work..Right now I’m praying 4 his victims and thanking GOD that I wasn’t one of them..

  16. I was one of the Law Enforcement officer who dealt with McNutt back in 1976. When he was released my partner said, “we’ll see that sick pup again” of course we figured he’d screw up and a more compitent judiciary would put him awry for so long he’d forget what sunshine looked like. Boy, were we wrong.

  17. I’d love to hear more from you about your recollections of McNutt, and the judges who failed to do their job putting him away.

  18. i have not inquired anything about this sick man since i last saw him at court and put his ass away for life for what he did to me and his other victims. We beat him girls now im sure he will pay for it while he is in there. I called him a coward to his face in front of the judge and the rest of the court room. I wanted to say so much more but the words just wouldn’t come out… im just glad we put him away. what a waste of a human being…

  19. I was a West Point student in the mid 70’s, and was just reminded that this animal walked among us. However, my comment is to the point that I was never made aware that peeping toms and exposure nuts (forgive my lack of knowledge of the more pragmatic terms) are often rapists-in-waiting. This is no small matter, because I always thought such peop;le were equivalent to drunks, a nuisance, but genrally harmless. shame on me for not putting that together, and shame on humanity for not making clear that such people should be considered more than just perverts, but dangerous criminals or likely criminals. I hope this makes sense, and the appropriate message gets out on our news stations around the country.

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